When e-cigarettes were first released, many looked at them as a way to potentially help consumers put cigarettes down for good.
However, electronic cigarette devices—also commonly referred to as vapes, vaporizers, and hookah pens—are now under fire as well, primarily when it comes to their usage by teens.
E-cigarettes and teens
E-cigarette use has grown tremendously for high school students over the past few years, increasing from 1.5 percent in 2011 to 11.7 percent in 2017 according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Additionally, the FDA shares that four out of five students (81 percent) say that the main reason they enjoy using e-cigarettes is because of their “appealing flavors.”
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) agrees that it is the flavoring of electronic cigarettes that helps draw the younger generation in, as well as many teens believing that they’re safer than tobacco cigarettes. But the NIDA adds that studies have found that teens who use e-cigarettes are also seven times more likely to transition into smoking tobacco cigarettes within one year.
What effect does e-cigarettes have on these teen’s health? Because they are relatively new to the market, their impact on both teens and adults is not entirely clear.
E-cigarettes versus tobacco cigarettes
Some studies have set out to identify the impact of using e-cigarettes when compared to the negative effects most commonly associated with smoking tobacco cigarettes.
For example, a 2014 systematic review published in Therapeutic Advances in Drug Safety looked at 114 studies related to the risks of e-cigarettes and indicated that, overall, use of these electronic devices is likely healthier than smoking cigarettes because they are “a ‘cleaner’ form of nicotine delivery.”
This review also shares that it is important to realize that, though some studies are citing the potential safety risks of using electronic cigarettes, this category of research needs to be considered a “work in progress” because not only are we learning more about e-cigarettes over time, but the products themselves are changing as well.
Potential health effects of e-cigarettes
Yet, some newer studies aren’t quite so positive. For instance, one study published in Vascular Medicine on July 9, 2018 shares that peripheral systolic blood pressure increases “significantly” for 45 minutes when individuals vape with an e-cigarette containing nicotine, though this increase only occurred for 15 minutes in cigarette smokers.
Heart rates tend to remain elevated as well, impacting the nicotine containing e-cigarette group for 45 minutes and the tobacco cigarette group for 30.
In this study, researchers concluded that these two effects could increase user’s risks of cardiovascular issues long-term. It should also be noted that when subjects used a nicotine-free e-cigarette, no significant change in blood pressure occurred.
A March 2018 study published in PLOS One further states that, while e-cigarettes may potentially help cigarette smokers quit their habit, as the NIDA has also indicated, some non-smokers are transitioning to cigarettes after beginning to use electronic cigarettes.
Thus, this study concludes that “e-cigarette use currently represents more population-level harm than benefit.”
Educating your chiropractic patients
One of the best ways to help patients understand the big-picture impact of using e-cigarettes is to educate them about these devices and the effects they can have on smokers and non-smokers alike. Talk about the latest research studies and their findings. Share how these products are in their infancy, so it can’t be certain what their effects are long-term.
Also share how easy it can be for teens to obtain e-cigarettes. For instance, the FDA issued a news release on September 12, 2018 citing how more than 1,300 warning letters and penalty complaints were issued to retailors who have illegally sold e-cigarette products to minors. In this release, the use of e-cigarettes among the younger generation was said to have reached “epidemic proportions.”
Helping patients quit smoking
If patients share that they are using e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking tobacco cigarettes, encourage them to reach that goal by connecting them with organizations that can help them quit healthily. For instance, the American Lung Association shares the “Five Secrets to Quitting Smoking” and the importance behind knowing why it is you want to quit, while also offering supportive programs such as Freedom From Smoking and Quitter’s Circle.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) has helpful quitting-based resources as well. This includes guides designed to help individuals create a plan to overcome tobacco addiction, in addition to providing the do’s and don’ts of quitting and how to overcome cravings and “tough situations.” Programs promoted by the ACS include the Great American Smokeout and Quit For Life.
Smoking is known to be harmful and, though e-cigarettes may be helpful when it comes to quitting, they have their own risks as well. From being a gateway for non-smokers to tobacco cigarettes to the potential health issues they can cause, these electronic devices may not be as good for the public as they originally seemed.